The Story Behind the Story

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
April 26, 2018

Hi, Everyone! So here we are after successfully dodging the latest End of the World on April 23rd (henceforth to be known by the acronym EOW, and pronounced YOW!). For many reasons, I’m glad we aren’t all toast (so many cocktails, so little time!), but chiefly because I want to share some exciting news concerning The Space Between. No, not lead-story-on-Entertainment-Tonight news. Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson aren’t in a bidding war for the movie rights. Yet. (She says hubristically.) This news is about an honor I first learned of in January, four months after the book was published September 12, 2017. All the recognized authors were asked to keep quiet about it until the results were released a few days ago. Et voilà. Behold my happy results from the Shelf Unbound book review competition:

I can’t tell you how good this feels. As many of you know, The Space Between (TSB) was over a decade in the making. I typed the first word on September 1st, 2005. Twelve interminable years later, it was finally published. Why so long? Three reasons:

1. I sometimes put the manuscript aside to percolate while I worked on its sequel and on writing poetry. Those were weeks and months well spent. By the time TSB was published last year, dozens of my poems had appeared in dozens of wonderful publications (with three poems nominated for the Pushcart Prize and one for Best of the Net), and the TSB sequel was ¾ complete.
2. I occasionally sought traditional publication, querying several agents and a handful of publishers (two behemoths and a few small independents). Three of the small publishers folded after I queried them. Those were weeks and months completely wasted. While the novel was making the rounds, the lighthouse at Rubjerg Knude could’ve fallen into the North Sea in the time I spent waiting for replies. (The very positive comments I got from two publishers helped keep me going.)
3. But here’s the biggest reason. I wrote the 1st draft—51,000 words—in 30 days. That’s right. I’m a NaNoWriMo veteran.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a wonderful concept. Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo offers foot-dragging writers one simple premise: Yes, you CAN write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. All you have to do is meet a daily word count goal and muzzle your snide inner critic until it’s time for the revision process. Since I already had four or five unfinished novel manuscripts laying about, one almost 80 pages long, I found the idea hugely appealing. My m.o. was to start writing a novel with enthusiasm, then get bogged down in minutiae and over-editing, unable to advance the plot. NaNoWriMo, I was sure, could push me over the novel-finishing hump.

For some reason, Mr. Baty chose November for the endeavor, but, what with Thanksgiving and all the other obligations of the holiday season, I thought November was a terrible idea. So I chose September. The Daughter’s high school fall term was back in session, and the home coast was clear for the quiet pursuit of novel writing. 1,667 words per day. Glen and I made several day trips that month, but I took pen and paper with me. I never missed a day’s total. And I got it done.

Except . . . I didn’t, really.

Yes, for the first time ever, I had the first draft of a novel on paper. But it was short. More of a long novella, actually. And yes, the story arc was complete. But only to encompass those 51,000 words. Why was that a problem? Because I hadn’t written a slim volume of literary fiction or an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. I’d written a multi-worldbuilding fantasy, and at 51,000 words, I was still at least one world short.

So I kept going, draft after draft. Over the next eleven years and eleven months, vital characters surfaced from my subconscious, insisting on being included in the book. I wove them in, creating an intricate, twisting plot with several timelines. In doing so, The Space Between grew plumper by 100,000 words. In the final eighteen months before publication, I trimmed it back 25,000 words, and that’s where it stayed.

When I began writing TSB’s sequel, The Realm Below: The Rise of Tanipestis, I knew if I followed the NaNoWriMo method I’d be faced with the same problem at the end of the first draft. So I took a deep breath, and (nervously) embarked on it the old-fashioned way. Happily, my successful NaNoWriMo experience gave me much-needed confidence, and my characters, both old and new, pitched in to help.

Despite the difficulties the process presented, it’s not an overstatement to say that NaNoWriMo changed the course of my life. Without it, The Space Between probably wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t be writing this post today. I wouldn’t have that fancy Notable Indie badge to flash. And most important of all, I wouldn’t have you.

You, dear readers, are the reason The Realm Below will be out by the end of this year instead of, oh, let’s say another twelve years from now. Thank you. I’m blessed to have you in my life.

And honestly, we’re all blessed we didn’t get smacked by the planet Nibiru. Yet. (EOW!)

10 comments on “The Story Behind the Story”

  1. Congratulations on the award, Mumsy. I'm so proud! Now stop blogging and finish the sequel already! 😉

  2. It’s your job. Just do it baby!!! Can’t wait to read book two. So proud of you and congratulations on your indie notable award well deserved. Love ya

    1. I love you too, darling! And thank you--I can't wait for you to read it either. You've encouraged me this whole way!

  3. Fantastic! this is the most wonderful news! Congratulations! I am so very, very thrilled for you! Well done!!!

    1. Thank you, Carie! Honestly, sometimes it all still feels a bit like a dream. Twelve mostly stop-and-start years, but then in the final nine months, BOOM! The logjam breaks loose and everything happens at once!

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